Land values down, taxes up – refunds possible

Many residents in Hills noticed a decrease in their property values on their spring tax statements; yet their taxes increased — which could result in many qualifying for a refund.

Rock County Land Records Director Tom Houselog was at the Hills Board of Appeal and Equalization meeting on Tuesday, May 14, to explain why.

He said that values for most residential properties were dropped five percent. He added that homes on the southeast section of town were taken on a house-by-house basis with some receiving smaller than five percent decreases and others remaining the same.

All other homes in town were devalued as a result of sale prices from October 2011 to September 2012.

Meanwhile all commercial property increased by five percent.

Houselog explained that commercial property had stayed steady for five years and needed an adjustment.

Ag land within the city limits increased 40 percent. Overall the city’s tax value decreased to $24.3 million.

Despite the decrease in value many taxpayers still had an increase in the amount of taxes they are required to pay. Houselog attributed that to the combination of the school operating referendum and building bond.

He advised residents to look into filing for the Minnesota Special Property Tax Refund.

There are two refunds available, the regular one that depends on income and the Special Property Tax Refund.

The special Property Tax Refund is based on the increase of your property tax over the previous year regardless of income. You are eligible for this refund even if you don’t qualify for the regular refund.

Houselog explained that this was a unique year in which many taxpayers in the H-BC district will qualify but you must file for the refund by Aug. 15.

To qualify for the special refund, all of the following must be true:

•You have owned and lived in the same home on both Jan. 2, 2012, and Jan. 2, 2013. 

•The net property tax on your homestead increased by more than 12 percent from 2012 to 2013.

•The increase was at least $100 and was not due to improvements you made to the property.The maximum refund paid out is $1,000.

For additional information on the Minnesota Special Tax Refund visit the Minnesota Department of Revenue website at Click the “Property Tax Refund” tab under individuals or speak with your personal tax preparer.


Verbrugge visit

Sheriff Evan Verbrugge visited with the council regarding communications during the ice storm in April.

He said the county has been working to improve the ARMER radio system to prevent failures in the future.

He said that “Hills was hit the worst for the storm and that the loss of power made the situation worse.”

He asked the council if there was anything his office of the county could do to improve their crisis management plan in the future.

The council said that other than the phone issues things went well. The group talked about the ongoing campaign to improve cell phone coverage in the area.

Verbrugge also commended the volunteer effort in Hills saying that many other towns, including Luverne, were jealous of the vigorous turnout to clear debris.


In other city news:

•The council reviewed possible estimates for debris cleanup in the city of Hills.

The city is working with FEMA on funding for cleanup efforts. The council was meeting with a FEMA representative this week to determine what would be reimbursed by their agency.

•Public works officer Eric Harnack reported to the council that recently Brad Gillingham with Minnesota Pollution Control inspected the city’s ponds and sewer reports. Gillingham noted that the flow levels had dropped dramatically from his last inspection.

Harnack said the improvements and sewer rehab project had helped. He advised the council to continue making improvements in the future.

•The Rez water project began last week. The council approved installing two hydrants.

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